Hyundai Continues Its Successful Series of Rollouts with All-New 2013 Santa Fe


By Keith Griffin
The all-new Hyundai Santa Fe demonstrates that the Korean manufacturer continues to roll the dice and come up with winners.
There’s an inherent risk in tackling a top seller and attempting to make it better. Sometimes you don’t get it right (i.e. the Honda Civic) and the reviews are negative. Granted, the Civic ended up being a strong seller, but there’s still this permanent sense, especially online, that it’s just not a very compelling car. Honda, if you go by the sales numbers, has a winner on its hands, but sales numbers do not make a brand compelling in the eyes of the car buying public.
Hyundai is compelling with the new Santa Fe and it’s willing to take a gamble. The new model was introduced to the automotive media at approximately 8300 feet in Park City, Utah. That’s not a place to bring underpowered cars because at that altitude horsepower drops by at least 20 percent.
This is the third-generation of the popular crossover. Now it comes with a two wheelbase strategy: the two-row, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, what used to be just the plain Santa Fe, and larger three-row, seven-passenger Santa Fe, what used to be the Hyundai Veracruz. The Hyundai execs, who really aren’t making any mistakes lately, saw more value in keeping the Santa Fe brand going and deep-sixing the Veracruz name going.
So, is the Santa Fe Sport an apt name? When it’s equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo engine and all-wheel drive it is. That’s the model Hyundai gave the gathered media to drive from Park City up to the Sundance Film Institute, via some dirt roads, and then back to the Olympic Training Center.
Turbo Thrust
The 2.0-liter, gas direct injection (GDI) engine produces 264 horsepower with strong fuel economy numbers of 20-mpg city and 27-mpg highway with all-wheel drive. The city numbers are the same as the 2012 model but highway fuel economy has improved from 25-mpg highway. The front-wheel drive version is rated at 21-mpg city and 31-mpg highway.
There is a more fuel-efficient normally aspirated 2.4-liter GDI engine that produces 190 horsepower. It’s rated at 22-mpg city and 33-mpg highway based on EPA testing. None of these models were available for review. However, because Hyundai has shaved 266 lbs. off the outgoing model, it should have sufficient oomph below 5000 feet to get the job done. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Allow me to sing the high praises of Santa Fe engineers for finally solving the problem of where to put the cargo cover. It’s that window-blind contraption that hooks on the sides of the cargo area and the cover opens and closes to hide precious items from prying eyes.
The only problem is sometimes you don’t need the cargo cover and there’s never been a place to put the damn thing. It flops around in the cargo area and becomes a potential projectile in a collision – until now. A space has been carved out below the floor to safely store it out of harm’s way.
Bells and Whistles
There are some bells and whistles on this new Santa Fe like Hyundai’s first application of Active Cornering Control AWD for improved driving dynamics; segment first driver selectable steering mode; heated rear seats; and seven airbags, including driver’s side knee airbag among others.
The active cornering impressed me in some unscientific testing (i.e. coming into a corner above the speed limit). The Santa Fe Sport barely batted an eyelash and felt more like a sedan than a crossover. It really delivers improved lateral stability, as well as understeer, which basically throws you to the outer edges of a curve and that could be a disaster.
The active cornering control, available on the all-wheel drive versions, controls engine torque and braking in conjunction with the vehicle stability management system. Hyundai says their system anticipates traction requirements instead of reacting after a problem has arisen. (You know – better safe than sorry.)
My sense of touch must not be refined enough because I discerned no value from the selectable steering mode that lets the driver select among comfort, sport and normal. One nice touch is it stays in the selected mode after the engine is shut off and does not default back to normal, which I guess would be a bigger deal if I could tell the difference.
Pricing Info
The base Santa Fe with the 2.4-liter GDI and front-wheel drive starts at $24,450. Upgrade to the turbo engine with all-wheel drive and you have a starting price of $29,450. The models Hyundai had us driving around in had more than $5600 in options for a bottom line of $35,925 including $825 delivery charge.
My best guess would be most of us would be fine with a front-wheel drive, 2.4-liter Santa Fe. It has enough horsepower and won’t pinch your wallet quite as much. However, that turbo, all-wheel drive model sure was a pleasure to drive and it would be negligent not to mention how quiet it rode.
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  • Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
  • Length: 184.6 inches
  • Width: 74.0 inches
  • Height: 66.1 inches
  • Curb weight:
  • Engine: 2.0-liter, four cylinder dual-scroll turbo
  • Horsepower: 264 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 269 lb. ft. @ 1750 rpm
  • EPA estimated mpg city/highway:  20/27
  • Base price: $29,450
  • As-tested price: $35,110
  • Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge

Photos (c) Hyundai